One Joyce Parson shares this true story. My three-year-old grandson found a quarter in the driveway as the family left for church.
When they returned home, he pulled it out of his pocket and handed it to his mother.
“You can have this money, Mommy, I was going to give it to Jesus, but he wasn’t there.”
A Prescription for Worship
Enter the place of worship a little before the service begins. Enter expectantly. God has promised to meet you there. Whisper a prayer. When the first hymn is announced, open your hymnal to that place. If you cannot sing, follow the words. Bow your head and close your eyes during prayer.
As you give, pray that God will accept the gift. During the special music, be attentive and prayerful. When the minister preaches, pray for him, and listen attentively. Be silent except to sing or say “Amen!”
An Excerpt from Evangelical Friend
I. GOD’S GIFT OF CHILDREN TO THE
FIRST COUPLE VV. 1-2
Adam had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. The first human couple was blessed with children through the natural process. When God created man and woman, He ordained that the reproduction of the human race was to be through marriage. Sexual intercourse is the most intimate of acts, sealing a social, physical, and spiritual relationship. That is why God has reserved it for marriage alone. Young people, God has decreed that human sexuality is to be expressed only in the context of marriage. Most of the moral, family, and social problems we are witnessing in our world today are due to our fragrant disobedience to the word of God. Today we have children who are also having children outside the bond of marriage and we wonder why life is becoming harder and even unbearable for some of us.
Any time we choose to go against the word, will, and plan of God for our lives, we suffer the direct consequences of our action. You can wait on God and let Him bless you with a future spouse, or you can go ahead of Him and do your own thing. But remember the law of retribution. You are going to reap what you sow. You will reap more than you sow. God blessed Adam and Eve in spite of their rebellion against Him. Today He blesses even those who don’t serve Him with children, and they give the glory to their false gods. God blessed Adam and Eve with their first son whose name was Cain. Eve acknowledged that her child was gotten with the help of the LORD. To whom do you express your gratitude for the birth of your child? Is it your husband? Is it your doctor; is it the medication you took? Children are gifts from the LORD; therefore, thanksgiving and glory must first go to Him and nobody else. I am not saying that you are not to thank your spouse, or doctor. What I am saying is that don’t give the glory that is due God alone to any human being. Eve gave the glory to the LORD. The first human couple had another child and they named him Abel (breath, or nothing).
Now notice that no longer was everything provided for Adam and Eve as it had been in the Garden of Eden where their daily tasks were refreshing and delightful. Before the fall due to their rebellion, all that they did was keeping and maintaining the Garden of Eden. God provided everything for them, but they wanted to be independent of God so, God sent them away. Now they had to struggle against the elements in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and their family. When you rebel against God, you set yourself up against untold hardships and suffering in life.
Cain became a farmer, while Abel was a shepherd. In some parts of the Middle East today, these ancient occupations are still practiced much as they were in Cain and Abel’s time. In the economy of God, work is not a curse but a blessing. Recall that before the fall, Adam was working, and God provided for his every need. Those who frown at work, those who can’t keep jobs are the ones who are out of the will of God. Some lazy people always want to argue that we have to work because of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. That is a big lie straight from hell. Work is a blessing, but indolence is a curse. Parents teach your children the importance of work, so that when they grow up, they will not become a burden to you and the society. Teach your children how to wash dishes, how to clean their room, and how to pick up the trash. If you frown at work, if you have an aversion or dislike for work, young people you are setting up yourself for future failure. If you detest work, you are going to be poor and your big dreams for the future will come to nothing. Cain and Abel were hard working people. They liked what they were doing. Do you enjoy your line of work? It is believed that 37% of the American workers don’t like their work. That is sad.
II. GOD’S DIVINE APPROVAL OF GENUINE WORSHIP VV. 3-5
Before I help us unravel the reason God did not accept Cain’s offering, let us set the record straight. I have heard it preached and taught that God rejected Cain’s sacrifice because it wasn’t blood sacrifice. This explanation is not true because it makes God unfair. Let me explain; God knew that Cain was a farmer—a tiller of the ground, but Abel was a shepherd—a keeper of flocks. Therefore, for God to demand blood sacrifice from Cain would be an unfair request. Besides, saying that God rejected Cain’s sacrifice because it wasn’t blood sacrifice would be reading too much into the biblical text. God does not define the sacrifice in the Bible. Moreover, God will not ask you to give Him what you do not have. Also, most blood sacrifices in the OT were for sin offering. On the other hand, most grain sacrifices were for the purpose of thanksgiving to God. The Bible does not tell us that they were to offer sin sacrifice. I think the text itself and the New Testament allusions to this passage help us to find out the answer.
The text says in verse 3 that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. In other words, he brought what he had. Verse 4 says that Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. I think these two verses help us to know why God rejected Cain’s worship. Abel brought the first produce from his flock and not only that, but he also brought the fat—the best part to God. Cain was arrogant so; he did not bring the best of his produce to God. Instead, he brought the leftovers to God. That is what many of you do when you come to worship. In the church, only a few believers are like Abel. Most Christians are like Cain in your worship. You give only the leftovers to God. But God does not have to accept your leftovers. You may be saying how do you know that we bring our leftovers to God. I know it because many of you as soon as you get your paycheck you have already prepared your budget. You have excluded God’s tithe from your budget. You allocate about 98% of the budget to yourself, your rent, or mortgage, car payment, credit cards, and utilities.
On Sunday when you are coming to church, you fill your car with gas, and you give the balance of your gas money to the LORD. When you give your leftovers to God, you expect Him to accept your gift and bless you. You know why our economies are in trouble today. I can tell you why. God has blessed us today financially, intellectually, technologically, and materially more than anytime in human history. But the more God blesses us the less we give to support His work. We keep more and the best part for ourselves and spend it selfishly while God’s work is suffering. Last year it was estimated that on the average Christians gave only 2% of their income to the Lord’s work, and this includes para-church organizations and missionary sending agencies. Any time God’s people give Him the leftovers, He shuts the windows of heaven. Cain gave to God, but he did not give the best of his produce. He gave with an arrogant attitude. The Book of Proverbs 21:27 says, The Sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, how much more when he brings it with evil intent. The New Testament also gives insight as to why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice in 1 John 3:12. Unlike Cain, Abel had an unshakable faith in God, because he knew that God deserved the best from him (Heb. 11:4). God evaluates your motives and the quality of what you offer Him.
Let me show you another way you give your leftovers to God. Some of you every weekend is party time. You choose to stay up late on Saturdays. On Sundays you come to church around 11:30 a.m. and you expect the service to be over by 12 p.m. When the service goes beyond 12 p.m., you become uneasy. You have just given 30 minutes of your time to the LORD, but you expect Him to bless you. You are just like Cain. You are giving God the leftovers of your time to Him. Because you stay late on Saturdays to enjoy yourself when you come to church on Sundays you can hardly stay awake. You are half-asleep when the service is going on. Am I speaking to somebody today? Can I get a witness? You, who party all night on Saturday, you are the first to complain that the service on Sunday was too long. You have given the leftovers of your time to the LORD and you are still complaining. Some of you too, when you go home and put your Bible on your table, you don’t pick it up again until next Sunday when you are coming to church. How much time do you give to God during each week? How much money do you give to the cause of Christ? You are robbing God of His tithe and His time. Am I speaking to somebody today? This might be a prophetic message to some of you to change your ways.
Abel gave the best of his flock to the LORD, but Cain’s spirit was arrogant. An arrogant spirit is the one that says I deserve better than God. Abel’s faith in God was decisive for God accepting his offering, but Cain was a liar because he kept the best part of his produce to himself, and that is what some Christians are. They think they deserve the best and the leftovers belong to God.
When you give to God, you should have a joyful heart because of what you are able to give. You should not worry about how much you are giving up, for all things belong to God in the first place. Instead, you should joyfully give to God your best in time, money, possessions, and talents. Cain and Abel approached the worship of God differently and this reflected in the quality of their gift to God. How do you worship God? Do you approach the worship of God with utmost preparation, care, and reverence? Or do you approach the worship of God with indifferent and casual attitude? It is believed that when God accepted an offering the smoke will be vertical. When God refuses an offering the smoke will be horizontal. God smiled at Abel’s sacrifice because he gave the best from a sincere heart. But God frowned at Cain’s sacrifice because he gave his leftovers from a wicked heart. Cain then became angry and his countenance fell. Cain was angry because he felt rejected by God. Who was Cain angry with? He was angry with himself.
III. GOD’S PENETRATING QUESTION AND ADVICE VV. 6-8
God then asked Cain, why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? Sin causes you to put your frustrations and anger on those who are dear to you. God does not leave a sinner in his/her tracks. God has concern for those who have blown it big time. God’s appeal to reason and His concern for the sinner are as strongly marked as His concern for truth (v. 5) and justice (v. 10). God’s dialogue with Cain was an opportunity for him to repent and do what is right. How do you react when someone suggests you have done something wrong? Do you move to correct the mistake or deny that you need correction? After Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, God gave him the chance to right his wrong and try again. God even encouraged him to do this, but Cain refused, and the rest of his life is a startling example of what happens to those who refuse to admit their sins or mistakes.
The next time someone suggests you are wrong, take an honest look at yourself and choose God’s way instead of Cain’s. When the Lord is blessing a fellow Christian, do not become jealous. Instead, examine your life. Could it be that you are giving the leftovers of your time, talent, possessions, and treasure to God?
In verse 7, God is saying to Cain “if you did well would you not also be smiling?” When you give your best to God, you experience joy and inner contentment. Then God says to Cain, And if you did not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it. Here sin is personified as a demon that is crouching like a wild beast on Cain’s doorstep. Its desire is to destroy you, but you must rule over it. In other words, Cain must overcome his sin of anger and jealousy. Are you a jealous person? Do you harbor some resentment towards others because God is blessing them and not you? For Cain to master the sin crouching at the entrance to his desires, he has to give up his jealous anger so that sin would not find a foothold in his life. Sin is still crouching at our doors today. Like Cain, you will be victims of sin if you do not master it. But you cannot master sin in your own strength. Instead, you must turn to God to receive faith for yourselves and faith and strength from other believers. The Holy Spirit is prepared to help you master sin.
Verse 8 says, Cain told Abel his brother. What did Cain tell Abel? He told Abel of his sin and God’s dialogue with him. Initially Cain seems like he accepts God’s advice, but like many believers do in time of temptation, Cain defies God’s word and kills Abel in the field. Instead of mastering his anger and jealousy, Cain allowed sin to master him. Therefore, he committed the first murder in the annals of human history. Abel stood for that which Cain did not. Abel is the first martyr for righteousness’ sake (Mt. 23:35).
Lessons from Cain and Abel
Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God had a ripple effect on their children. Simple disobedience can lead to murder. Many Christians have assassinated or killed their brothers and sisters with their lips out of envy and jealousy. God accepts and blesses those who offer the best in their sacrifices to Him. Adam and Eve acted only against God, but Cain acted against both God and man. A small sin has a way of growing out of control. Let God help you with “little” sins before they turn into tragedies. Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable than Cain’s was because it was offered in faith, a quality he shared with other saints in the old covenant (Heb. 10:4).
If Abel should be a model for you and me who are believers, Cain’s behavior must be avoided. “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the way of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11). Abel’s blood pleaded for vengeance, but the sprinkled blood of Jesus speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24). Let’s close with John’s exhortation in 1 John 3:11-15, “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” He who does not love abides in death. Give your best to the Lord and He will smile on you and cause your ways to prosper.